Does the phrase “time management” strike terror in your heart? If so, you aren’t alone. Virtually every woman who enters my office is upset by her inability to make better use of her time.
In fact, the problem of how to manage time is, well, as old as time. A 1746 quote from Poor Richard’s Almanac reads: “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
Well, I’m tired of rounding up the usual time management suspects. So burn those lists! Forget that intricate filing system! Let’s take a fresh look at this age-old problem.
It’s All in How You Look at It
Our resistance to the notion of time management is that we view it as an end in itself. We try to convince ourselves that there is intrinsic value in cramming multitudes of activities into small amounts of time. And this idea is about as appealing as fingernails on a chalkboard.
Let’s consider another way to look at time management: Taking charge of your time really means taking control of your life, so you can enjoy it more. In other words, there’s actually something in it for you. Sound better? If so, read on for some ways to free up time but time for fun.
- Find your prime time. Each of us has a time (or times) of day when we concentrate best, with the least effort. For most people this is early morning. I’ve worked with women who function best in the late afternoon, however, and others who are most productive in the middle of the night. Determine when your prime time is, and devote it to your most important projects. Block this time out on your daily calendar as if it is a mandatory meeting. Lock yourself in your office, or hang up a “do not disturb” sign. You’ll accomplish more in two hours of prime time than in any other four hours of your day.
- Don’t stay on automatic pilot. We waste incalculable time by never taking time to consider what we are doing, and why we are doing it. So get off the treadmill long enough to consider what and why. Ask yourself the following questions: Is this activity necessary? Can someone else do it for me? And most important, does it coincide with my priorities? You will find that asking these simple questions saves you invaluable time.
- Don’t own other people’s problems. We females seem to automatically absorb the concerns of those around us. We don’t stop to consider whether the problem is anything we have the power to resolve. Further, it rarely occurs to us that attempting to solve someone else’s problem may be enabling, rather than helping, them.
- Avoid procrastination. Whenever possible, attend to things right away. Have you noticed that the longer something sits, the more overwhelming it becomes? Also, don’t be held back by the need to do something perfectly. Just take a stab at it. You can go back and put the finishing touches on most of life’s tasks.
- Take a break. The idea of taking time off, when we are talking about using time more efficiently, may seem counterintuitive. But when we spend too much time focused on “have to’s” and “shoulds,” we become less efficient, not more. Taking a break to have some fun will leave us refreshed. It may also lend us a new idea or fresh perspective, as we reapply our energies to the task at hand.